After flying this week, I learned some things about myself and what I really miss about flying: vanity and routine.
Routine Is Comforting
There is something about the routine of air travel. For highly frequent flyers, the last year has been a more than just time working from home instead of from the road, an extended break from vacations – for us it was a sea change and an uncomfortable one at that.
For flyers like myself, I knew the United Pittsburgh-Houston schedule like New Yorkers taking the subway. When leaving a hotel, I pack a certain way, my electronics go in the bag left, all of the zippers align to one quarter of my bag at the same point. Why? Years of learning efficiency through trial and error.
There’s a motion. Drive the rental car back, toss the key on dash, leave the car running, make chit chat on the way to retrieving my bag from the back seat. Up the escalator, first door on the right, Terminal A or B – nearly always – CLEAR, then empty my pockets into the tray, slide my backpack behind, reveal my belt buckle (just in case it sets off the alarm), fill my pockets back up, sling my backpack over my shoulder, click heels in the direction of my gate.
Then it all changed.
In order to get on a plane, the rituals all changed. We once rolled our eyes at Naomi Campbell, whose hyaluronic acid and sheet mask protocol looked like hypochondria to the extreme. Now, the advice isn’t “drink lots of water” and tips for beating jet lag – it’s fashionable masks, limited flight schedules, and we have all had to become experts in testing protocol.
I missed the routine, the sense of everyday adventure waiting at the other side of it. I missed the ownership I had over that routine, the process, the timeline. I never thought I would.
I Admit Vanity Is a Problem
There’s something else that I missed, vanity. I’m not proud of it and never realized how much I enjoyed it, but everything about the last year’s travel has been an uninspiring event. Nothing was special.
I can downplay its importance all I want, but I loved being remembered at a property for being a Globalist. I missed the joy of boarding first and settling in to a first class seat that I didn’t pay for, but rather it was given to me because I was special, because I was valuable to the airline.
No one prioritizes your existence at the grocery store. There’s no elite loyalty lane at the gas station. No one is envious of your trip to Chipotle.
It’s petty and small, but I liked being special. I enjoyed people accommodating me. And while it may not endear any readers on LiveAndLetsFly.com – it’s dead honest.
I never flaunted the elite travel experience on social media the way others do. But I wasn’t shy about explaining why my experience is different when someone would tell me they hate flying. I didn’t mind showing them pictures of the trip I returned from with a lie flat bed, or medium rare filet and service on demand. And that was vanity too, even if I pretended I was just helping them see how flying doesn’t actually suck.
I, and most of our readership, have been humbled in the last 12 months. But I think it’s ok to both recognize that this problem exists, and also miss the positive things that surrounded it.
A sad feeling overcame me at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport this week. Most of the elements were normal, save for the announcements regarding face covering and masks – it was pretty much business as usual.
But it didn’t feel normal, it felt like something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it passing by people at gates, airplanes arriving and departing, a paper mask wasn’t really that different, it was a sense of hopelessness.
When once, I’d have passed by gates with destinations like Dubai, Mexico City, Paris, and Tokyo, and thought “Maybe I’ll go there next” now I look at empty gates and an ANA 787 that I won’t fly to Tokyo because even if I did, it wouldn’t be the same.
I’m sure that pilots and flight attendants felt the same melancholy that I did this week getting back onto a plane in a normal routine. Perhaps they didn’t miss the way their skin feels dry in the canned air at altitude or condescending passengers with unreasonable demands, but they did.
Like driving through my old stomping grounds to my childhood home, there was a comfort in going through the old routines. I miss that and I hadn’t really realized how much of it I missed. Equally, I am comfortable admitting that I miss the feelings of elite status and treatment. Some readers may choose to think less of me for saying it out loud, others may feel it themselves. I’m not saying vanity is a good thing, I’m not even masking it as “recognition” but I am sure some will take the chance to take a pot shot anyway – go on, then.
The real loss of routine flying is the feeling of hopelessness, that the world that we once knew is still gone and not coming back any time soon.
What do you think? Do you miss routine flying and traveling? Do you miss the vanity of it all? Does you feel hopeless?